“The Magic of the Forest,” a very fitting title for Jackie Crivello’s first children’s book, evokes the sense of wonder that exists for us lucky mountain residents. Surrounded by nature, our imaginations have space to wander and marvel in a childlike manner, and it is this shared joy which lives at the heart of Crivello’s second children’s title, “Fireball Fox Saves the Forest.”
“My stories were created to engage parents and grandparents and nature, bringing the outdoors to children,” Crivello explains. “My idea was for parents to think about what I wrote and how children can reflect on it in their own lives.”
A child’s perspective is formative, found in adulthood through the beauty of the world, a special kid in our lives, or happy memories. For Crivello, these children’s stories, their photos—even her entire photography career—has roots in her own childhood.
“I started wildlife photography when I was 8 years old! I was out to dinner in northern Wisconsin with my family and [on our way in] I noticed a black bear in the trash. I had my camera with me, so I excused myself to use the restroom and I photographed the black bear,” recalls Crivello. This, she says, awakened a passion that she was sure was born in her. “It was innate—it was an instinctive thing which I grew to love more every day of my life.”
This special moment launched Crivello into a deep appreciation for nature and a special eye for beauty found in landscapes, wildlife or the human form. She was afforded grand opportunities as early as high school, taking up the role of yearbook photographer and developing film in her school’s dark room, and winning a national award that earned funding for the school. After graduating, she assisted Sports Illustrated as an NFL sidelines photographer while continuing to expand her nature and wildlife portfolio. She has been the recipient of multiple National Geographic photography awards, including being named one of the Photo of the Year awardees. Her nature photography has been published internationally and she was a top-selling artist at John Fielder’s gallery. Now, her work is on display at Grizzly Creek Gallery in Georgetown, where she sells to many local and celebrity clients. It’s a callback to that first spark: the snapshot of the bear.
Her children’s book ideas are tied to a childhood connection as well: a close relationship with her grandmother. “My grandmother lived to be 99 years old and she was housebound in Wisconsin. I would take pictures and I wrote stories to go with the photos—mostly photos of animals and our vistas,” Crivello fondly recalls. “My grandmother loved them, and I thought, why not share them with other people?”
Crivello does not impulsively dive into such projects. Her work, however passion-driven, is successful because it has a foundation of research, planning and intentional execution. “I would sit down and write a page at a time and post them across the wall of my office. If something didn’t work, I would take it down and replace it.” After, she brought in careful, professional eyes. “Initially, I worked with a Colorado publishing coach, then a designer.” Then came the editing. “For that, I went to our fabulous Holly Jorgensen. I wanted the best people in the country working on this, and Holly is one of those, as is the woman who did my book design.” When the concept was ready to be a physical reality, Crivello made purposeful decisions about the look and feeling. “I believe in the art of the book. I purchased imported Italian paper, ordered an old-school binding, and a dust jacket as vivid as the cover.”
The research, hard work and attention to detail has made Crivello a resource to other hopeful authors. She is always willing to share her advice, which hinges on taking one’s self seriously. Crivello started her own publishing company, Happy Hill Press, to oversee the printing and marketing of her book. “The most important thing is, in the writing of my book, I had to have in mind who the consumer would be. I had to know who my customer was before I started to write,” she says. “And I am relentless in marketing my book. It’s an every day process—seven days a week.”
It’s forethought with an obvious payoff: Crivello’s children’s books are sold across the country and internationally, with placement in more than 400 stores, including Barnes & Noble. She garnered the attention of a major publisher and a distributor. “To be with a publisher and a distributor and get them to work together is highly unusual. That was fortunate,” says Crivello. “The book has to be good enough—it has to be viable for these people to want to sell your book.”
“The Magic of the Forest” has sold copies all over the world, with praise from literary institutions like the Mom’s Choice Award, which represents over 60 countries. Despite the mass of sales around the world, Crivello still feels intimately connected to the project. “My goal wasn’t how much money I could make, but how much joy I could bring to the community in terms of connecting people with wildlife.” She personally signs every copy of the book before it goes out to the customer.
The second book in the series, “Fireball Fox Saves the Forest,” was released a year ago to similar acclaim, with special nods to the book’s surprise ending. Fireball Fox lives in the woods of Evergreen with his animal friends who are all concerned about the machines moving through the forest and ripping out trees. The animals decide that Fireball, the bravest of them all, can put a stop to the destruction. “Fireball tries numerous times to get the machines to leave—but the machines are not what you think they are,” Crivello reveals. You have to buy the book to discover the ending, but she promises, “No one dies in my books. You’re going to cry because it’s a happy story, not a sad story.”
Crivello says that she has been inspired, not only by our beautiful surroundings but by the immense community support. “The community has extraordinarily embraced the books. The support comes from the hometown. I think people enjoy being a part of someone’s success— I know I do. If I know someone locally doing something, doing well, I want to support that.” Notable local support has come from Jim Sherwood, HearthFire Books & Treats, Evergreen Crafters, Evergreen Shipping Depot and Keys on the Green, who hosted a photoshoot.
With a hometown foundation, the book project has exploded around the world. International sales continue to increase, and the second book is currently being animated for a forthcoming streaming project. The third story is slated for a spring release. For those who can’t shop locally, signed copies of the book are available online through jcrivello.com, Walmart, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, but Crivello hopes to connect with readers when she can. She makes author appearances at special events which combine a storybook reading with brief instruction on bird feeding—another of Crivello’s passions-turned-expertise. She has an upcoming event on December 3, from 11-3 at Barnes & Noble in Lakewood on Colfax.
“These books are really successful and I’m so proud of that,” Crivello says. “I feel so connected to every single book I sell.”
To learn more about Crivello’s photography and children’s books, visit jcrivello.com.